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Pros and Cons of FAT 16 vs. FAT 32


I would like to know the Pros and Cons of FAT 32 vs FAT 16.

Can you mix the two on different partions and is there a

concideration if one plans to have multiple boot operating

systems on the same computer. I have heard differing thoughts

on using FAT 32. Do these two formats have any effect on older DOS programs. Thanks, Guy Gamble


This question was answered on April 15, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


Your question covers quite a bit of ground and could really take volumes to cover While I do not have that kind of space here I will do my best to give you a concise summery

The best way to give you some information about FAT 32 vs FAT 16 is to have you imagine your hard drive as a big grid with thousands of sectors on it

Each square (sector) in a FAT 16 partition holds 32 kilobytes (32K) of information This is not a bad storage system except for the fact that if you have a file that is 33 kilobytes (33K) it is going to take up two sectors Even though there is only 1K of information in the second sector, it becomes unusable to any other file as storage because it has been allocated to the original 33K file As you can see, if you end up with quite a few of these partially use sectors you will end up a large amount of otherwise usable memory.

The FAT 32 system has helped to prevent this “wasted memory” problem by making the sectors of the grid much smaller Each sector in a FAT 32 partition holds from 4 to 8 K of information This is much nicer as at most you can only “waste” about 7K of space vs the 31 in a FAT 16 partition You can convert the partitions but they can not be mixed

Your Windows partition choice should not affect your older DOS programs Your DOS programs should be running in a DOS partition The biggest change people see between their DOS files and Windows partition file is that Windows supports “Long File Names” This means that your files can have names longer than the 8.3 standard of DOS

The DOS 8.3 standard refers to the fact that DOS will allow files to be named with 8 characters followed by a 3 character extension (i.e Fastcars.doc) Any file names that exceed the 8.3 character standard are abbreviated to fit the standard with a “~” and a number So if you had some Windows files named FastcarsRed.doc, FastcarsBlue.doc, and FastcarsBlack.doc, they would look like this in DOS:




There is lots of information on the web about this issue as well You might want to take a look at:

It is a bit technical but this page covers quite a bit of information Hope I was of some assistance to you.

Respectfully Submitted,

Matthew Howard

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Posted by Matthew of University of Advancing Computer Technology on April 15, 2000